5 Best Programming Languages for Game Development

Coding for Beginners
Written by:
App Academy
Published on:
February 28, 2023
game controller next to a laptop

Explore the top programming languages ideal for game development. This article provides insights into the most effective and popular languages used in the gaming industry.

Video games aren’t going anywhere, and the meteoric growth of video games only means that game developers are more in demand than ever. If you’ve ever dreamt of putting together a game of your own, you might consider becoming a game developer — but you need the right tools.

With all the various programming languages, it can be hard to figure out which one you should learn to start developing games. But there are definitely a few that stand out as great options for creating an optimized gaming experience. Let’s explore 5 coding language options for video game development.

What is Game Development?

Game development is a dynamic process that involves creating video games from the ground up. During a typical development process, dozens to hundreds to thousands of professionals may work together to bring a video game to life. This includes programmers, level designers, artists, sound designers, writers, and others.

These teams may leverage game development kits for specific platforms (like PlayStation, Xbox, or mobile) or use game engines like Unity or Unreal Engine to build their game. Some enthusiasts and some of the biggest game studios will build their games from scratch, often developing their own engines in the process.

The Qualities of a Good Programming Language for Game Development

There are so many different programming languages in existence. It’s important to have a grasp of the ones that work best for your area of interest, and why. What exactly makes a language “good” for creating games, anyway?

To create a smooth and immersive game experience, you want a language that is:

  • Fast and lightweight: players expect a game to run smoothly, without stutters or lags
  • Robust: the best languages for creating video games can support large volumes of data and complex graphics
  • Widely used: the more widely used and supported a language is, the easier it will be to import assets (like graphics) during development

The coding languages we’re about to explore exhibit these traits and are great options for programming for games. Each language, however, still has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some languages might be more versatile, but more difficult to learn. Others may be less robust, but easier to learn. You’ll have to see which ones may be the best tools to help you achieve your goals.

Programming for Games: The Best Languages to Learn

If you want to start programming for games, consider learning one of the following programming languages.

1. C++

C++ is one of the most popular options for game development. Based on the classic C language, C++ expands its predecessor in powerful ways. It’s efficient, fast, and robust. It can support complex graphics, beautiful imagery, and large volumes of data. It also features numerous debugging tools that troubleshoot coding issues and optimize game performance.

It’s such a versatile choice that it’s used by game developers worldwide, and it’s implemented in some of the most powerful game engines on the market, including Unreal Engine, CryEngine, and Godot. The most notable downside of C++ is that it’s a complex language that can be difficult to learn, especially for those completely new to programming for games.

2. Java

Java is a well-known and widely adopted programming language used in a number of different industries, including game development. It’s an easier language to learn than some options like C and C++, but it can still be challenging for beginners.

Games developed with Java can run on just about any operating system or mobile device, meaning it’s a good choice for creating versatile games and apps. It’s not quite as agile as C++, however, and it’s not as widely used in game development circles. Thanks to powerful frameworks like libGDX, though, it’s still a viable option for those who prefer this programming language.

3. C#

C# offers many of the same benefits as C++, but it can be easier to master. You can lose some of the finer levels of control that C++ offers, but C# is still a powerful choice leveraged by many enthusiasts and some professional studios. One of the most common applications of C# is using the language in conjunction with Unity, a popular game engine that serves as a point of entry for many budding game developers.

Those who want to make highly optimized 3D experiences, however, would be better off learning C++, since bigger studios use it more commonly. It also enables you to take advantage of Unreal Engine’s powerful platform.

4. Python

Python isn’t always the first language that comes to mind when you think of game development, but it’s an excellent general-purpose language that’s easy to learn and features some powerful libraries and frameworks, some of which are built for game development (like PyGame).

Programmers use Python in other applications as well, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and business intelligence. If you’re looking for an easier language to learn that opens doors to other lucrative opportunities, Python is an excellent choice.

Learn more: Ruby on Rails vs. Python

5. JavaScript

JavaScript is another language not always leveraged for game development, but it’s another easy option with many business applications outside of gaming. It’s a highly versatile language with a low barrier of entry, making it a good choice for those who might not be ready to tackle more sophisticated languages like C++.

There can be a trade-off, however. JavaScript is not as fast as some of its harder-to-learn counterparts, making it more suitable for creating low-profile 2D games rather than high-end console or PC titles. Learning JavaScript, however, can still create new opportunities for you in game development or web or app development.

Learn more: What is JavaScript?

How to Choose the Best Game Development Language for You

When it comes to programming for games, you have plenty of options to choose from. The five programming languages above are good places to start, but don’t worry — there’s no need to learn them all. Many developers pick one or two languages and master them, becoming specialists that many studios highly value.

So which programming language is best for you? That can depend on a number of factors. You might have a specific kind of game you want to develop, for example. If it’s nothing more than a simple 2D sidescroller, you can get started quickly with a simple language like Python or JavaScript.

Even if you want to build something ambitious like a AAA-quality 3D title, Python or JavaScript is still a good place to start. Tackling simpler projects one at a time can add a game to your portfolio, giving you the momentum you need to build toward something even more significant.

If your ambitions are even higher, you might choose to learn a programming language based on a particular game engine you want to work with. Many developers break into the field with Unity, a popular choice for 2D and more modest 3D games. In this case, you’d want to start with C#.

Unreal Engine, on the other hand, is capable of making AAA-quality games with some of the most stunning graphics and gameplay. Those wanting to leverage this platform should build their skills in C++.

No matter which language you choose, get ready for a challenge! Even with the easiest programming languages, you’ll need to study diligently to understand how they work and how you can use them to create a fun and thrilling gaming experience. With the right resources, however, you’ll be well on your way.

Start Developing Your Skills With App Academy

App Academy can help you develop your coding skills. While App Academy’s bootcamps do not directly prepare students for a career in game development, our bootcamps do provide the foundational knowledge necessary for programming for games. Students looking to pursue this career path can get started with us but would be required to continue developing their skills outside of what our curriculum offers.

Our immersive programs teach coding languages like Python and JavaScript and several other skills you’ll need to thrive in the tech industry.

Ready to change your career and your life? Explore our programs or reach out to an Admissions Specialist to learn more about the process.

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